I am starting to wonder if choosing a blockchain or a Web 3.0 approach is as much a lifestyle choice as a technological choice.
Leaving aside the naming challenge (are we calling this blockchain, crypto, or Web 3.0?), I think it represents a movement of people who want to live with intention, self-discipline, and personal agency.
If THAT message can get refined and promoted, and not the one about all the virtues and downsides of the tech, maybe more groups of people would be open to hearing the larger story and engaging?
Web 2.0 has led to an epidemic of ‘digital diabetes’
We have all seen where Web 2.0 got us.
The current platforms are manufactured for maximum engagement, creating a dopamine stream of addiction. This addiction leads to poor choices of time, stunted intellectual development, and ever more fantastic claims designed as “click bait.”
Back in 2010, Nicolas Carr wrote a book entitled The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains. You can gather its hypothesis immediately. At the time, it was widely derided within tech circles for its supposed sensationalism. I should know, I was one of its critics.
Now, 10 years later, in a “post-truth” era with teenagers addicted to their phones, I am not so sure he was wrong.
I see it in my own house and all across society. We are just beginning to understand the implications, and anyone who has paid attention to global politics recently knows there are many.
Societies with an abundance of physical resources have a growing physical obesity problem.
Societies with an abundance of digital resources have a growing information obesity problem.
The short story of high fructose corn syrup
The information obesity problem makes me think of high fructose corn syrup.
High fructose corn syrup was commercialized in the early 1970s as a response to growing geo-political change.
To oversimplify: Political upheaval in sugar-producing nations created a supply crunch in the US, driving the need for a technology-driven alternative to provide Americans with something sweet that wasn’t expensive.
What started off as a solution to one problem ended up becoming the cause of another, even bigger, problem.
Today, with the Internet effectively controlled by a few massive corporations that do not have the best welfare of every individual as a core value, billions of people are in the process of abdicating their rights to personal choice and freedoms.
I could go on for pages about the power of Alexa and Google to manipulate you through the answers they give to your questions, Facebook to affect what you think and buy given the newsfeed, and Apple to limit your consumption choices by preventing certain apps from running on its phones.
Combine all of this with big data/AI, etc. and it’s not difficult to imagine how our lives will be controlled by algorithms that are privately owned by a few companies.
An alternative digital lifestyle
Any trend has many causes, but over the past few years, we have seen an explosion in the number of people doing yoga and meditation and choosing a vegetarian/vegan diet in an attempt to build a healthier lifestyle.
Given the recent IPO of Beyond Meat (even if it did get a bit irrational), it’s clear that investors think this trend is here to stay.
I suspect this is how many people are reacting to their own growing awareness of the unhealthy elements of the “mainstream” lifestyle, which has led to so many health problems, both physical and mental.
And I suspect this is where Web 3.0 has a chance to really shine.
One of the more interesting marketing moves I have seen recently is from Blockstack, which put up an ad outside of Google’s headquarters. It was a “poke the beast” type of move that I am not 100% sure is worth the money now, but I could be wrong (after all, I’m writing about it now).
Can’t be evil.
This message is now displayed outside Google HQ in Mountain View. pic.twitter.com/BVK5SPaNet
— Muneeb Ali (@muneeb) June 19, 2019
However, what I think IS brilliant about the billboard is that it builds on the theme of Web 3.0 as lifestyle brand.
As in, you either want to be part of a movement that claims “don’t be evil” but is constantly pulled in the direction of evil in the name of revenue, OR you want to be part of a movement that literally cannot be evil.
If you choose the latter, you are making a lifestyle choice. You are choosing to take control of your personal, digital destiny.
You are also choosing to ensure and protect the digital freedoms of others from unknown, unseen, monopolistic powers that don’t care about you; they care about your wallet.
Self-discipline and self-control is a choice
I have been reading a lot of Stoic philosophy recently in preparation for a trip to Greece later this summer to study the roots of democracy.
“If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.”
Given all that we have seen over the past few years (e.g. Cambridge Analytica, etc.), I suspect there is a growing awareness and frustration with the high-sugar diet of Web 2.0 that is creating digital addiction and digital diabetes.
What most people don’t yet realize is that there’s a healthier alternative.
Thirty years ago, there were no vegan products on the shelves in supermarkets. No one was doing yoga in Times Square.
Today there are and they do.
Those people have made a lifestyle choice for their bodies. Web 3.0/blockchain/crypto is the lifestyle choice for their minds. A life full of digital intention.
Today, like the vegan/vegetarian options of 10 or 20 years ago, it may be a bit challenging to get started, but it is possible. And just as vegan/vegetarian options have increased daily, Web 3.0 options will as well.
If you want to begin to explore the Web 3.0 lifestyle, here are a few things you can do today.
Take control of your assets and get a wallet
One of the key tenets of the Web 3.0 lifestyle is, “Not your keys, not your Bitcoin.”
This extends to every crypto-asset (currency, utility token, collectible). You need a way to safely maintain control of your assets, and you do this through a wallet.
The easiest ways to set up a Web 3.0 wallet for the Ethereum network is to download the MetaMask extension for Chrome, which is the most popular and most widely used. Two other excellent options are Dapper and Gnosis Safe, which have a bit more security due to their backup features.
There are hundreds of other wallets out there. If, for example, you have already bought Bitcoin or other assets at Coinbase.com, ShapeShift or Gemini, then that exchange holds your keys, which puts you at some degree of risk. You can easily move those assets to excellent wallets like Exodus and Edge. For even more security, you get a Trezor, a Ledger, or a ColdCard. Another security option is Casa.
Respect yourself; opt-out of the surveillance economy with privacy tech
So much of the Web 2.0 economy is predicated on tracking every aspect of your personal life in order to “monetize” you. Every day, you generate a lot of value in return for “free” access to online software and services.
The Web 3.0 lifestyle is about respecting the value of the work you do and asking for a fairer trade and equal distribution of value.
You can download the Brave Browser and immediately see not only a huge increase in the load time of the pages you surf, due to its native ad blocker, but also increased safeguards against trackers.
Plus, with Brave Rewards, you are paid to view ads. Yep, you earn Basic Attention Token (BAT) just for looking at ads. And yes, you can turn BAT into “real” money.
Brave has been my default browser across multiple devices for at least a year, I think.
Another thing you can do for additional protection is to use a Virtual Private Network, or VPN. You’ve probably heard of companies like Norton and HotSpot that offer VPN services.
They do a very nice job of protecting your identity from websites, but they still have your data themselves. A Web 3.0 alternative is Mysterium, a decentralized VPN service. Unlike Hotspot or Norton, not even the nodes in the network know where you are. Your location is totally masked.
(While in beta, the service is free. Though, at some point, I would expect there will be a charge. I do still expect it to be significantly cheaper than the centralized alternatives. Even better, during the pilot phase, you can get paid to run a Mysterium node in your house.)
I’ve been testing Mysterium for a few months now, and it’s fairly reliable. There are a few glitches, which are to be expected in an alpha/beta product, but so far so good.
Turn your Google searches into money
You know you are a big deal as a company when your name is a verb. Xerox did this once upon a time. Today, Google.
If any of us thinks “web search,” we think “Google.” It’s an automatic habit.
That’s what makes this next suggestion challenging. Breaking habits is difficult, but like breaking the habit of eating meat for people trying vegetarian/vegan lifestyles, a Web 3.0 intentional choice for search would be Presearch. There, you get the same Google result you would expect, but your valuable search data is kept private from Google.
Plus, you get compensated in PRE tokens every time you conduct a search if you set up an account — which will require an email address, so not perfect. (Yes, you can turn those into “real” money, but with greater difficult than the tokens from other Web 3.0 offerings I’ve mentioned above).
Options are growing every day
These are just a few of the increasing number of Web 3.0 options.
If you are a social activist, you can go to Bounties.Network and figure out how to incentivize crowds to engage in activities. For example, I was paid 10 DAI (which is worth $10 exactly and easy to convert to “real” money if you want) to clean up trash and plastic from a local forest area.
And if you are interested in human collaboration at global scale to solve global problems, you can join the Genesis DAO. A DAO is a “decentralized autonomous organization” — a collaborative of people earning money, volunteering, learning, sharing, and inventing a future of work that gives more people the opportunity to get paid to do what they love, made possible by blockchain technology.
I could go on… LBRY to keep your videos safe from YouTube censors, OpenBazaar to earn cryptocurrency selling items instead of using eBay (with no fees), HyperSpace to compensate you for writing high quality content (that Medium monetizes), Decentraland if you want to create monetizable VR experiences, and Dharma to earn 10% (at the time of writing) on your USD deposits, via the USDC stablecoin.
There are many Web 3.0 offerings out there, and we’ll see more emerging every day.
Be careful and be patient
All that said, this is still new technology.
Many of the current offerings are in alpha or beta. Over time, they will get much better. For now, however, a few guidelines:
- Expect technical frustration as you get things set up
- Be extra thoughtful about protecting your private keys
- Do not put more money at risk than you are comfortable losing
- Remember that a blockchain is a publicly searchable database and your anonymity cannot be guaranteed, particularly if you don’t use common sense.
With those caveats, however, you are on your way. Good luck in your exploration. It’s time to discover if the Web 3.0 lifestyle is for you or not.